The Southeast Alaska Local Flavor Tour

by | Aug 25, 2007

We’re on the Island Princess at the moment along with 2000 other guests and 1000 crew. When this floating city pulls up to the dock as it has done in Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway over the past three days tourists flood into these little Alaska towns, multiplying the daytime population by two, three, four, even five times.

Many cruisers make their way to Princess-owned jewelry stores for reasons beyond my comprehension. Others go sight seeing, fishing, hiking, bicycling, dog-sledding, zip-lining and the like. Whatever the case, it’s hard to “escape completely,” despite Princess’ claims to the contrary. Thus, we were incredibly fortunate to see Juneau and Haines with the help of our friends Gary O’Quinn and Tony Tengs, respectively.

On Wednesday morning we rode mountain bikes nine miles around Auke Lake to Mendenhall Glacier where we were greeted by a brown bear and her two cubs. After a tour of Alaskan Brewing Company and lunch at The Hangar, we took a cab to Auke Bay to meet up with Quinn and J.J., who is visiting from Colorado. We boarded Quinn’s 22-foot skiff and took off across the bay to Lynn Canal to check his shrimp pots. His wench wouldn’t start, so Quinn decided to pull the pots up by hand from a depth of 350 feet. A hungry man will do these things. Thankfully, there were over two-dozen giant shrimps (pardon the oxymoron) in his third of three pots. When we got back to Quinn’s cabin after an afternoon of salmon fishing off Douglas Island, he steamed these newly acquired sea creatures like the true sportsman that he is. The lobster-like meat was delicious and it’s the first time I’ve had shrimp caviar. Quinn also tossed some Halibut cheek in the frying pan for our tasting pleasure.

On Thursday, we poked around Skagway in the morning, drinking coffee and tea, writing postcards to our parents and talking to a Spanish couple on a six week bike trip of BC and Alaska. Then we boarded the native-owned Fast Ferry to Haines, where Darby camped in a tent 16 summers ago. In Haines, we were met at the dock by Darby’s old friend Tony Tengs. Tony, a Haines native and present day operator of the Chilkat Cone Kitchen in Juneau, took us to the Bamboo Room for lunch. The restaurant and its sidekick Pioneer Bar was run by Tony’s parents until recently when his sister took over. The Halibut fish and chips is legendary and now I know why. Freshee!

After lunch Tony drove us out to the sacred ground where Darby camped all those summers ago. Tony then introduced us to two local artists in their gallery workspaces before heading over to the White Fang movie set. Inside this Hollywood set are working Haines businesses, including the Haines Brewing Company. We tasted the hoppy goodness there and bought a litre of Spruce Tip Ale to take back to the ship. I’m about to enjoy some now, thanks to the kindness of friends.